The toll collector of the future may not be so far away after all.
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has agreed to buy a new "cashless" electronic tolling system that will do away with human toll collectors, and send you a bill in the mail instead.
The new equipment is expected to be installed within four years the PA's six crossings (GW Bridge, Lincoln and Holland Tunnels, and the Bayonne, Goethals and Outerbridge bridges) but that doesn't mean it will be turned on right away.
Port Authority Spokesman Steve Coleman said several issues need to be worked out, including legislation from both NY and NJ dealing with enforcement of scofflaws, risk assessments of unpaid tolls, as well as the status of the existing 200 to 300 union members who currently collect cash tolls.
The overwhelming number of motorists who use EZ-Pass wouldn't be affected.
But for those who still pay cash, they would be able to zip through the toll lanes without stopping.
The new equipment would take a digital photo of each license plate, then mail the bill to the registered owner, who could possibly pay with a credit card over the phone, or on a secure web site, or the old fashioned way, by mailing in a check.
That's why legislation dealing with enforcement is so crucial to such a system.
"It will become a trend pretty soon," said Coleman, who noted that at least two other states, Texas and California, have built brand new toll roads with "cashless tolling."
But such a system for the hundreds of thousands who use the crossings between New Jersey and New York every day would apparently be the most widespread use of toll collection without the human touch.
Coleman notes the MTA is also studying "cashless tolling" for its bridges and tunnels around New York City.
The $10 million contract with PBS&J Architecture and Engineering will, however, allow for human toll collecting to continue indefinitely in case the two states decide against the "cashless' concept."